Crashing Japan
Tour Experience - Tokyo Game Show, Yakitori, and Ganguro Girls

by Bamboo Dong,

Having once been to E3 back in the days when they still had multi-million dollar booths that consumed half of the city's power, I was ready for the torrents of people, flashing lights, and freebies that would be the Tokyo Game Show.

The event was held at Makuhari Messe, which is good distance from the middle of Tokyo. This meant a long train ride crammed full of other eager gamers—the kind who would gladly stand in line for four hours just to get a Metal Gear Solid 4 fan. I didn't have that much resolve, but I did want to check out the sights, and maybe gape at the Square-Enix booth for any signs of a new Kingdom Hearts game. (Of course, all the tickets for the Square-Enix theatre were gone within the first half hour.)

With the sun shining cheerfully upon us, and the humidity at a stifling 80%, I wanted to die, but the people at the convention center definitely know what they're doing. The line looked painfully long, but within 15 minutes, we were inside. For pictures from the event, check out our Tokyo Game Show gallery. One thing that baffled me as a visitor was the cosplay gathering places between the main exhibition rooms. I have never seen people line up to take photos of cosplayers—in the US, everyone just clusters around and snaps away. The lines were a foreign concept to me, but it did allow for every photographer to request specific poses.

After a few hours, I decided it was time to head back to Shinjuku, where I discovered just how good the curry places inside the train station were. None of them would compare to the yakitori I had a few hours later, though.

Sandwiched between Kabukicho and the west exit of Shinjuku Station is a small alley packed densely with bars and yakitori stalls. Each small restaurant has just enough room for a row of stools, a counter, a refrigeration unit for all the meat, a grill, and a place for the owner to mill about. As you walk by, it's almost impossible to not oblige when the owners call you in. This entire street smells heavenly, and it's like a hidden pocket of grilled meat tucked away under the shadows of the skyscrapers a block down.

Most of the stalls are almost always crowded, but there's so many of them that you'll definitely be able to find a seat in one of the places. The place that I went to was able to take my order in English, but for the most part, if you don't know a lick of Japanese, you'll be able to get by with pointing and holding up fingers. Some of these places can get a bit pricey if you order a lot of food, but it's definitely worth it. This alley is hard to find, but ask anyone near the station where to find yakitori, and they'll be able to point you in the right direction.

Once night fell, I only had one destination—Shibuya. Rumor had it that Saturday night was the best time to go check out all the gyarus and ganguro girls hanging around the shopping district, and after all those long hours of watching Super Gals, I wanted to check it out for myself.

I was not disappointed. The people-watching was fantastic, and I only regret that I left my good camera back at the hotel, so I wasn't able to snap some better shots. I thought this place was wild during the day, but at night, it's even better. This is the place to go for the sole purpose of being seen, and all these girls knew it. Someone told me a few years ago that they thought the “gal” look was on its way out, but there's no way that's true. I kind of hope it stays forever.

For more pictures and commentary on the tour, check out Destination Japan's flashback page.

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